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Germany Not to Change Iraq Policy under Chancellor Merkel

Germany will maintain its alliance with France in the European Union and will not change its Iraq policy under future chancellor Angela Merkel, top diplomat said on Wednesday.

The remarks were made by designated foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when talking about the foreign policies of the grand coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU).

"The first visits of Merkel and myself will certainly be to France," he said in an interview with the German TV N-TV.

He added that the new government will develop the German-French partnership "with the same intensity in which it has been developed over the past years."

Outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has fostered a close relationship with French President Jacques Chirac. The two nations have been called the motor of Europe's integration.

The future foreign minister noted that a German-Franco alliance was "not directed at anybody."

In a separate interview with ARD television, Steinmeier made clear there will be no major change in Germany's Iraq policy.

"I believe there won't be any fundamental change," Steinmeier said in the interview.

The incoming grand coalition government had agreed there would be no major changes on Iraq policy, he said.

Schroeder has refused to send any troops to join the US force in Iraq before and after the Iraq war broke out early in 2003.

Merkel, who is to be elected chancellor by parliament on November 22, has indicated she would repair special partnership with the United States, which had been impaired over the recent years over Iraq and other issues.

Steinmeier told ARD that he would make some efforts to improve relations with the US.

"To do nothing would surely not be good advice," said Steinmeier.

However, Steinmeier ruled out any major changes in transatlantic ties.

"People are intelligent enough and know enough on the other side of the Atlantic to see that we are pulling our weight in global engagement and responsibilities," he said.

The future foreign minister noted that the transatlantic partnership and European integration are the two pillars of German foreign policy under the new government.

Steinmeier, Schroeder's close partner in the SPD, will be sworn in on Nov. 22.

(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2005)

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